San Francisco Prosecutors have recently dismissed hundreds of Drug Cases because of major problems with the testing of drugs at the Crime Lab. A lab technician was stealing some drugs and using them herself, the lab had a poor record keeping system and it was dirty which means the samples of drugs could have been contaminated. Furthermore, one of the technicians was convicted of a crime and that information was not forwarded to defense attorneys as is required.
Dismissing so many cases means that hundreds of hours of hard work by police officers was completely wasted. Hundreds of hours of work by San Francisco Prosecutors and San Francisco Criminal Defense Attorneys was also a complete waste of time. Who is to blame? District Attorney Kamala Harris is number one. In the final analysis she was elected to prosecute crimes. That means she needs to put together cases with the help of the police that will result in a solid conviction. This didn’t happen. Was she spending too much time on politics and not doing her job? I think so. She was the California campaign manager for Obama and spent an emormous amount of time on his campaign for president. She is nnow running for California Attorney General which also takes her away from her day job.
New Police Cheif Gascon is not to blame, he inherited this mess. But former police cheif Heather Fong was asleep at the wheel in regards to the Crime Lab. She should have been focused on making sure that the evidence that her police officers confiscated during police investigations was safe and not corrupted. She had a “hands off” management style, and this fiasco is partly a result of her not being engaged in her job. The fact that so many cases are being dismissed must be demoralizing to the police officers who worked so hard to put those cases together.
Finally the auditors are to blame. Every several years the San Francisco Crime Lab along with other crime labs from other counties are subject to an audit. The auditors are usually folks that work in other crime labs in the Bay Area. The problem is that the auditors are friends and are friendly with the people they are auditing. Sometimes the auditors turned a blind eye to problems in the crime lab. A new system needs to be put in place to make sure this cozy relationship between auditors and cirme labs doesn’t skew the audit.
This legal disaster could have been prevented by a little more oversight by those in charge. Hopefully other counties are learning a valuable lesson from the mistakes made here in San Francico.